Sarasota deputy investigated for offensive remarks caught on video

8:44 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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SARASOTA, Florida -- A Sarasota deputy in trouble last year for making bad arrests is making headlines again, this time for comments he made against a passenger. The sheriff calls the remarks "alarming" and "disturbing."

A DUI arrest and traffic accident in November resulted in allegations of misconduct against Sarasota Sheriff Deputy Dominic Fornal for remarks he made against a passenger, remarks filled with foul language, and it was caught on a Florida Highway Patrol trooper's video camera.

Deputy Fornal on FHP video says, "Dumb f***ing retard was back up there talking to him so I just grabbed him up. If he gets up again, I told him he's going to jail. This dumb f***ing retard."

Fornal was referring to the passenger, 28-year-old Eric Zimmer, seen sitting on the median in the white jacket. Zimmer had just checked on the passengers in the other vehicle.

"I wish he could have been hit by a f***ing car on University. That would have been kind of funny," Fornal is heard saying to the trooper.

Zimmer's attorney, AnnMarie Rizzo, says, "You don't use that language in a professional, any professional, setting why with people on the road, civilians, people he is here to serve and protect."

The video became available to Rizzo during her investigation into the driver's DUI arrest. "He was the passenger. He had not been charged with a crime, he was not in any way uncooperative, not obstructing the investigation, just sitting there."

Deputy Fornal is seen nudging Zimmer with his foot. Then, minutes later, Fornal grabs Zimmer by the arm. Zimmer says the deputy placed him in the back of his patrol vehicle for no reason. Rizzo says, "To violate someone's rights, to put them in the back of a patrol car and no conduct warranted it, that's technically false imprisonment."

Fornal is heard speaking to the trooper. "Are you Baker Acting him or what?" an unknown deputy asks.

"No, I'm going to keep him in there until his ride comes, as long as he doesn't do anything f***ing stupid like kick your back window out ... knocking his f***ing teeth out."

Zimmer's attorney says even though the accident triggered her client's anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, it does not excuse the deputy's behavior. Rizzo says going public with the video is not about money. "It's more about making sure no one is victim of this kind of behavior of abusive conduct."

"The video itself tells a story. I'm embarrassed for all the men and women who work here at the sheriff's office, and we have 1,000 people who work here," says Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight.

The sheriff says he expects more from his deputies. "Foul language is never accepted with citizens. You treat people right with integrity and respect. That's expected all the time, not just when the video is on."

Zimmer's attorney says right now there is no civil lawsuit pending, but says her client wants to see Deputy Fornal taken off patrol.

Fornal is part of an internal investigation. Sheriff Knight says this matter will be "harshly" dealt with.


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